Monday, August 26, 2013

... and one game.

I'm not a gamer, and most of the games I could play on my iPhone would hurt my hands and arms. So I'm very happy to have discovered Flutter, which is technically a game but doesn't feel like one. It feels like I have my own butterfly sanctuary where hardly anything ever happens, pretty butterflies flutter around, maybe occasionally I catch a falling flower petal, maybe occasionally I feed a treat to the frog, now and then I hatch a new species of butterfly, then I go away for a few hours and when I come back not a whole lot has changed. FLUTTER IS SO SOOTHING. (It's also free! There are ways to make it fancier and faster if you feel like spending money, but I don't.) (Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 6.1 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.)

My butterfly sanctuary.

This caterpillar is sleeping.

This caterpillar is plaintively
waiting for me to feed it that leaf.

This chrysalis will hatch soon.

This bird enlists butterflies and sends them on
important adventures. Like, warning our ant
friends that an anteater has moved into the forest.

 This frog is waiting for me to
feed it that glowy bug on the left.

That bug looks mad.

Butterflies hanging out.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"The Nantucketer, he alone resides and rests on the sea."

For years he knows not the land; so that when he comes to it at last, it smells like another world, more strangely than the moon would to an Earthsman. With the landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep between billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest, while under his very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.

I'm listening to and loving Recorded Books' production of Moby-Dick, narrated by Frank Muller. It's over 21 hours long! I tune in and out as I'm listening, perhaps starting back to attention to find that it's been fifteen minutes and Ishmael is STILL listing white things (!!!) (see "Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale"), tuning out again, then sitting straight upright as Melville says something so beautiful I could die. I read this book in college, I wrote a paper about it. What a pleasure to enjoy it for itself and be allowed to space out when I want to. :)

I'm also referring occasionally to The Arion Press's 1979 printed edition designed by Andrew Hoyem, with (wonderful! and helpful) illustrations by Barry Moser. This is an expensive edition; check your library.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cabin Pressure

*intercom dings*

First Officer Douglas Richardson (voiced by Roger Allam): Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We're now about halfway through our flight from Hong Kong to Limerick, and I just thought I'd let you know that I... am... BORED. Bored, bored. Bored. Bored...... BOOOOOORED. We are, unbelievably, still flying over Russia, which continues to be STUPIDLY BIG. Really enormous. Far bigger than necessary. We've been in the air now for about a week and it doesn't look like we'll be landing until the last syllable of recorded time. So, if anyone on board knows any card tricks, ghost stories, or would like to have some sex, please do make your way to the flight deck. Thank you.

*intercom dings*

Captain Martin Crieff (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch): Ahhh, ladies and gentlemen, I do – I do profoundly apologize for my first officer and his badly misjudged attempt at humor. I do hope you weren't distressed by his outburst and – and let me just say in his defense that up here in the flight deck it is… UNBELIEVABLY BORING.

First Officer Douglas Richardson: SOOOOO boring.

Captain Martin Crieff: So very very very VERY boring!

Both together: BOOOOOOOOOOORED!!!

Cabin Pressure is a radio sitcom produced by the BBC and starring Roger Allam, Stephanie Cole, Benedict Cumberbatch, and John Finnemore. It's also written by John Finnemore, who is BRILLIANT. :) It's about a tiny airline struggling to subsist on a single, shabby plane; one good but careless and dishonest pilot (Allam); one bad but careful and correct pilot (Cumberbatch); one extremely bossy owner (Cole); and one flight attendant who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer (Finnemore). Each episode involves funny antics. Currently, four series of six episodes each and one Christmas special are in existence, though my sources tell me more is planned. If you're thinking of buying it, it is MUCH cheaper at AudioGo than on iTunes. Fans of Anthony Head will be pleased to hear that his character makes semi-regular appearances in later series.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Writing Homework

Greetings from the back of beyond, dear readers.

I love Deborah Kaplan's recent post called "Writing Homework for You, My Loyal Readers." Last fall, Deborah and Amy Stern co-taught the fantasy course at Simmons College's Center for the Study of Children's Literature. After they'd started the semester, they realized what the opening assignment should have been. Now that they're no longer teaching the course, they're sharing that assignment with us, and it's a great one. It involves learning to better appreciate the differences between all the many ways we can write about books. From the post:

Current students are so incredibly proficient at writing about reading, because what with blogs etc., they do so much of it. And yet at the same time, they are proficient in some very specific kinds of writing about reading (primarily personal blogs and Goodreads-style reviews, with some amount of professional blogs), and the process of showing people the requirements of the different kinds of writing is different than it used to be. Without devaluing existing proficiencies, we hope to show that high quality reactive blog post, for example, is not the same thing as scholarly forum discussion.

The point here is that all the styles of writing are valuable, but they're not the same as each other, and they require different focuses and styles. Deborah delineates nine different possible styles. Check it out if you're interested!

This summer is wonderful and intense and I'm not online much. But I have great hopes of coming back a few times in the next couple weeks to recommend one BBC radio play, one audiobook, and one game.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Book, Plus, Some Resources on How to Talk about Things When You Know You'll Never Agree

It's birthday month on the blog, but life this summer has been so jam-packed (in all the best ways) that I haven't given much time to blogging. So. Um. Happy birthday, everyone, including me. :o)

In my limited time today, I want to point out one online resource for learning to talk about abortion, then mention one really interesting book about women and eating problems.

First: a decade ago, my mother brought an article at the Public Conversations Project to my attention. It's about a secret, six-year-long dialogue between leaders on both sides of the abortion debate, a dialogue which took place in the wake of John Salvi's December 30, 1994 shootings at the Brookline Planned Parenthood and Preterm Health Services that killed two people and wounded five. The participants in this dialogue held passionate and opposing views on the abortion issue, but didn't come together hoping to change each other's minds. From the article: "Our talks would not aim for common ground or compromise. Instead, the goals of our conversations would be to communicate openly with our opponents, away from the polarizing spotlight of media coverage; to build relationships of mutual respect and understanding; to help deescalate the rhetoric of the abortion controversy; and, of course, to reduce the risk of future shootings." Called "Talking with the Enemy," the article is a wonderful read, and a helpful one, too, if you're interested in learning how to talk about things with someone with whom you know you'll never agree. The Public Conversations Project has assembled a whole bunch of links on talking about abortion, including "A Hard Conversation Made Easier: Tips for Talking About Abortion." I'm now eager to poke around the rest of PCP's site, which includes information about dialogues on things like science and technology, child labor and cocoa, same-sex marriage, and human sexuality and the church.

Next, I read a book called A Hunger So Wide and So Deep: A multiracial view of women's eating problems, by Becky W. Thompson, released in 1994. From the flap copy: "Becky W. Thompson shows us how race, class, sexuality, and nationality can shape women's eating problems… [This book] dispels popular stereotypes of anorexia and bulimia as symptoms of vanity and underscores the risks of mislabeling what is often a way of coping with society's own disorders."

Here's an excerpt:
Vera's experience raises the question of whether there is something inherently wrong with using food as a comfort when something terrible occurs. If it soothes someone in a time of extraordinary grief – why not? For some of the women, a sign of recovery was coming to see eating as a reasonable way to cope with adversity given other "choices." These questions bring the discussion full circle, since answering them rests on social and political analysis. The "just say no to food and yes to life" approach to eating problems, like the "just say no to drugs" ideas of the Reagan-Bush years, reduces complex issues of social justice and access to resources to psychological issues of self-control and will power. As long as the violence and social injustices that women link to the origins and perpetuation of their eating problems exist, women may continue to binge, purge, and starve themselves.

The link between eating problems and the traumas these eighteen women described to me indicates that prevention of eating problems depends on changing the social conditions that support violence and injustice. Making it possible for women to have healthy relationships with their bodies and their food is a comprehensive task: we need to ensure that children grow up free of racism and sexual abuse, that parents have adequate resources to raise their children, and that young lesbians have a chance to see their reflection in their teachers and community leaders. We must confront the myth of a monolingual society and support multilingual education; change the welfare system in which a household that is eligible for the maximum amount of assistance receives an average of forty cents worth of food stamps per meal; dismantle the alliance of the medical, insurance, reducing, and advertising industries that capitalizes on reducing women's bodies to childlike sizes; refuse to blame women who are anorexic or bulimic; and dispel the notion that large women automatically eat too much. Women must learn to feed themselves along with – not after – others. Ultimately, the prevention of eating problems depends on economic, cultural, racial, political, and sexual justice.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Musical Quiz for You

Recently, I organized some tickets for an upcoming concert. A friend sent a check in the mail to pay for her ticket. Above is her accompanying note. Can you guess what we're going to see/hear?

Now I'll talk about something else for a minute so there's some space between the question and the answer. Um. Hi. I don't have a lot to say right now. Except that today I find myself wondering how the drive is between Ísafjörður and Akureyri (Iceland). Based on this Google maps image, it looks delightfully fjordy.

View Larger Map

Oh! I could also tell you about one other exciting upcoming concert for those in my neck of the woods. Recently I have blogged (more than once) about the Slovenian/Croatian duo of Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser known as 2Cellos. These two very talented classically-trained cellists perform classical crossover covers of various pop, rock, and metal songs, and their music is completely infectious. And – they're doing a USA tour in October/November, starting in Northampton, Boston, and New York. Take a look at their other locations and dates, too. Very exciting! (I think you have to type "2CELLOSLIVE" into the promo code box in order to buy tickets right now.)

Okay, has that given you enough time and space to figure out the answer to my quiz above? Yes, we're going to a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony (with the Boston Philharmonic), and the note above is the Ode to Joy :). Local Beethoven-lovers, if you're interested in dates, times, and locations, here's the link.